Welcome to Kiva, Georgia!
By Kevin Mihelic, KF12, Georgia
Kiva will soon start a new partnership in the Republic of Georgia. As this will be Kiva’s first partner in Georgia, I want to introduce the Kiva community to this very interesting country!
Most people probably know a little bit about Georgia from it being in the world news the last few years: both for good reasons, in the Rose Revolution of 2003, and bad, in the Russian Invasion of 2008. These are just two of the many important events in Georgia since the dissolution of the USSR.
Since declaring independence from the USSR in 1991, Georgia has had a tumultuous road. The 1990s saw much fighting, bloodshed, and corruption. There were wars for the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as well as a bloody struggle following the coup of Georgia’s first democratically elected president. By the mid-90s, these wars ended with de facto independence for each region and thousands of casualties and displaced refugees.
Georgia was also waging a fight against corruption in the government. Eduard Shevardnadze, the last Foreign Minister of the USSR, became the leader of Georgia after the coup in 1992. Shevardnadze was initially liked and respected as he brought some stability to government. However, as time passed, he headed an increasingly corrupt and inefficient government. After allegations of fraudulent elections in the fall of 2003, mass protests were held in the streets of Tbilisi. This peaceful ‘Rose Revolution’ led to Shevardnadze’s resignation in November 2003, and allowed the election of Western oriented Mikheil Saakashvili in January 2004.
Saakashvili immediately began a series of reforms to oust corrupt officials and improve governance in Georgia. He fired 80% of the police force and brought on new officers. Public trust of police went from 10% in 2003 to over 80% in recent polls. Additional reforms to tax and business laws fueled economic growth for several years. In foreign affairs, Saakashvili oriented Georgia towards the West by making it a priority to get Georgian entry to both NATO and the EU. Georgia was making much progress in its development.
Despite the economic and political successes of Saakashvili, Georgia had little success in resolving the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts. Skirmishes on the borders continued off and on for years culminating in the 2008 Russian invasion. While the facts are still disputed about what happened in 2008, what is certain is that Russian soldiers drove deep into Georgian territory and caused a lot of damage. This event, coupled with the world financial crisis one month later, stalled Georgian development briefly.
Now in 2010, there are still many issues to work on, but the Georgian people are moving forward again. Reforms continue to take place domestically and the government is committed to the peaceful resolution of the Abkhazian and South Ossetian issues. This is a country committed to development and fostering the entrepreneurial desires of its people.
Tomorrow, I will be posting an article on our partner in Georgia, VF Credo, and some of its current clients. Be on the lookout for Credo loans soon!
Kevin is currently helping VF Credo in Tbilisi, Georgia prepare for their Kiva partnership. Working to bring a new partner to the Kiva community while exploring the many wonderful sights of Tbilisi has been a wonderful experience for him.